Waking The House Of Feathers
by Kerry Hood
Maria, Consuelo, Inez. On plastic chairs in the courtyard of Casa Quetzalli. Shouting across the fountain at Ofelia, Rosa, Neli. Throwing out a scarred arm, stamping a square-heeled silver sandal.
– You went in my room!
– You took all the chilli at lunch!
– Inez, how did you pay for those teeth?
– May your grandson never visit, you old bitch!
Miquita and walking frame part the sea, sienna hair lifting, cotton at sunrise. She speaks. Neli, the youngest at seventy, is the slowest to stand. She used to sleep in a car until she was set alight.
Gathering by the outer doors the women bow tremory faces towards the shrine, except Xochitl who is dead on her ripple-stain mattress. It is for her they offer feathers and marigolds (the flowers aren’t real, it’s getting expensive). Ofelia breaks wind. Inez curses. Behind, a breeze unveils ten single rooms with their washbowls and candy bars, a gold Jesus, a baby’s bracelet, a red dress nailed to the wall.
Suddenly, the women straighten. Always there is the bruise noise of scooters and trucks and the barbershop radio, but this second, without warning, they can smell the side street, its dancers and drunks and old boxers, feel its gaps where they waited to be taken to alleys before emerging musky and paid for and torn and vacant and brutalized or, exactly a dozen times, loved.
Now metallic eyelids flash. Feet slide slyly forward. Miquita snaps her fingers, improvises thanks for the Casa, for sanctuary. The others cross themselves. Really, they pray for no feathers, no marigolds; they pray for the doors to spread apart, for blood to pump their bodies along the Strip, for the courage to unleash a frenzy blade, but one of them, at least, prays for the chance to know a thirteenth time.